DETROIT — State agencies are looking into a sickness that has reportedly killed more than two dozen dogs in Northern Michigan.
The investigation is being led by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and veterinarians at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
The illness presents like parvovirus. Dogs usually show signs of nausea, fatigue, lack of appetite, and vomiting.
The perplexing experts are that many of these dogs test negative for parvovirus.
The Michigan State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory recommends local vets pursue polymerase chain reaction testing.
"Because they are finding that the PCR test is coming back positive and what that means is we are potentially dealing with a new strain," said Dr. Lucretia Greear, who works at Woodhaven Animal Hospital.
Greear says she's been speaking with a pathologist at MSU.
Most of their info so far is anecdotal because there is no statewide reporting system for parvovirus. That's why they and MDARD heavily depend on samples from around the state.
"Some of the samples that have come back, the initial samples have tested positive for parvovirus," MDARD spokesperson Jennifer Holton said.
Holton says it is too soon to come to a sweeping conclusion as to what the virus exactly is.
"I know there is a lot of misinformation and whatnot running around on social media, so we've been really trying to provide the most up-to-date information as quickly as possible," Holton said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reassured Michiganders via Twitter that state agencies are working hard to learn about the virus and that there are several steps dog owners can take.
.@MichDeptofAg is working with local animal control shelters, area veterinarians, the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and other partners to learn more about a virus affecting Michigan dogs.
I’m encouraging Michigan dog owners to take these steps to protect their dogs ⬇️ https://t.co/ogKzTIlsS9
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) August 23, 2022
Rebel Dogs Detroit recently had one of their pups, Dexter, come down with parvovirus. Executive Director Juniper Fleming says they thought he wouldn't make it.
"It is a roller coaster if you are trying to take care of your pet at home with parvovirus. You can think one day he seems better, and they can plummet again," Fleming said. "So please get medical intervention."
Greear says what's unusual about the parvo-like virus is that it's not just impacting young puppies.
"That's what is kind of alarming now. You have cases of adult dogs contracting this potentially deadly viral disease, and that is something that usually doesn't happen if there is some vaccine history," Greear said.
Greer says she spoke with a pathologist at MSU who told her "upward of 50 to 100" dogs have died from the illness in Michigan.
MDARD says dog owners should keep up with routine vaccinations and ensure animals are fully vaccinated before interacting with other animals.
Experts say the virus spreads through fecal matter and can live in soil and on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
"Just be cautious and careful and try not to subject your pet to new animals and things they aren't used to," Greear said.
Mary Pope says she takes her three dachshunds on camping trips up north every summer, but now, she's worried it's not safe.
"They might just not be traveling for the rest of the year, and we will see what next year brings," Pope said.
Fleming says vaccines seem inaccessible for families on fixed incomes, but you have low-cost options locally.
"I think people hope if they get one round of vaccines, it will protect the dog. But unfortunately, as the puppy grows, the antibodies don't continue to protect them and you have to get multiple series," Fleming said.